There is something supernal about David Draiman's voice. He's like a surrogate god indemnifying foreign powers, the red-tipped scream which ripped the world in two, a both incisive and subtle show of vocal power and prowess. Troops going into combat listen to David Draiman, lead vocalist of Disturbed, for the same reason that soldiers of some ancient era prayed to their gods before charging. He brings the same terrifying power to music that Dostoevsky brought to literature, a message powerful and proud in its simplicity; I know prison. I know power. And come with me, because I can help you beat both with the other. If the world is a box within a box, Dave Draiman's the guy opening the gift.
I've been a Disturbed disciple since late 2006. In fact, I'm the sort of guy who played the "Ten Thousand Fists" record every day (sometimes several times a day) for a year. I'm also the sort of guy who bought about four copies of "Asylum" because I wanted to be sure to have one with me everywhere I go. It's like the release of every Disturbed CD marked an epoch, a new era, in my life.
In 2006, Draiman told me that I had the oomph to finish what I started; both high school and my first ever novelette. In 2008, he told me that I had unfathomable potential untapped by the job I was then working or the degree I was fruitlessly inching towards or the girl I was chasing or the parents I was still trying to placate. In 2010, when I royally fucked up and pretty well dropped out of the common grind, Dave told me he understood. He told me to prepare myself for a year of ghosts, to learn to fight fire with gasoline, to birth a literal hell in my mind and learn how to fight it in its own terms.
I'm told that many people view their favorite musicians as 'parental' figures, but this was never true for me. Dave was my comrade-in-arms, not despite the fact that we couldn't have known less about each other but precisely because of that fact. I've learned that some realities of solipsism can't be beat. No matter how real your intentions, or how earnest your heart, or unsullied your ideals, good luck ever trying to have a 'real' conversation with somebody else. Nobody can ever really *know* somebody else, in most cases, but it is possible to dispense with the pretense, sit back, and learn. That's what Disturbed has been for me.
Dave's message to me has always been one of eternal struggle, of vindication, of discretion. He makes me look for the subtle worlds in things, the clandestine potential beneath a veneer of struggle. It's like the 1885 painting "The Fog Warning," by Winslow Homer. It shows an old man in a rowboat struggling through a storm into an approaching fog. The storm represents discord, the eternal nemesis, but beneath it are depths unfathomed.
Disturbed's last compilation was 2010's "Asylum," the group's most thematically diverse and teeth-rattling sonic landmine since pretty well ever. I interpreted every track on it in a personal spirit. The intro, "Remnants," was to me a discordant melody, a lament which becomes an avowal to grimace forward through the depths of isolation and insanity. It's an instrumental equation, the first time ever that Disturbed has released a non-vocal track on a commercial CD. It was originally meant to be the first part of the title track, "Asylum." The seven-minute title got split into two songs, to be more expedient for radio airtime.
The "Asylum" single is a caustic, masochistic shout of duality. Dave discussed the song in an interview as representative of two things; a place of refuge, and a place of torment. Absolutely everything about my own life at that time...living in my mother's home, my failed relationship, my aborted dreams, the inchoate novel which I was trying to exhort into being...all seemed both things that I sought solace in and used as cudgels to bludgeon myself. It also contained a mixed premonition, that of the physical 'asylum' which I would commit myself to before the next year was out.
"The Infection," the CD's third track, was Dan Donegan's magnum opus to date. The guitar riffs and transitions are like Metallica off the chain. Listening to that song feels like extricating a dark succubus from your heart and soul with violent upheavals, then finding out that the succubus was your shadow and the best part of you all along. It speaks of confinement (Danny himself does backup vocals, for the first time in awhile; fuckin' A, man). You get the sense of suffering injected into a greater pattern. It tells you "you're in pain, but this has meaning," and pulls absolutely no punches. It inures you against doubt.
Another thing really interesting to note about Disturbed is the surprising lack of profanity in their songs. They swear all of once on the entire CD, and I'm quite sure that you can count the number of swear words in their entire catalog on one hand. Danny swears once in "The Infection," but it's like a focal point, a flood tide of repressed self-loathing. It's catharsis. It's like a magnifying glass used to refract the sun. This is what your grade 10 English teacher meant when he said that profanity can sometimes be constructive in writing. Far too many bands use profanity to supplant lyrical ingenuity, which stopped being 'cool' around my 15th birthday. Danny whispers the word in question. It's like he doesn't have to speak loud to petrify you, like he's tipping over a row of dominoes, a house of cards, with a whisper.
"Warrior" is Disturbed's token tribute to the soldiers overseas, meant in the same spirit as the title track "Indestructible" from a previous CD. But, it was much more than that for me. "Warrior" was a response and repudiation to the hopelessness of "The Infection." It says that, no matter who you are or how futile your bleakest rage, you are not inutile. You can fight, you can take place in a struggle, be it internal or external, and find meaning there. But it's the thick of the fight. It's losing yourself, not necessarily closure. It reminds you of your own potential, reminds you that you have your own power; for good or evil, the choice is yours. It convinces you that you have your pride, your honor, and will have a right to them always. It tells you that nothing can ever take them away from you, that you are the only person able to strip yourself of this.
"Another Way To Die" goes on in the opposite vein. Though written as a song about the environment and human negligence, a rallying cry for 'environmentalists' everywhere, I chose to see it as a forfeiture of martyrdom in a solipsistic world. Meaning, no matter what you do, how hard you fight, you need to be critical-minded and know that, sooner or later, you will die. It's a very 'blank slate' song, meaning that it's neither optimistic or pessimistic. It doesn't say, "well, you're going to die, so have fun while you can," or "you're going to die, nothing means shit, get out now." It just reminds you of death, tells you how dangerous consumerism is in the sense that it has made all the world *your* world. It literally makes *you* the world and says you're in imminent danger of ending because of something that you really ought to have seen coming. It doesn't day die, or live, it just says think. Where "Warrior" snarled about action, "Another Way To Die" gives you a conscience. It gives you responsibility. This was the first single publicly released before the CD, and it's sort of like a microcosm of "Remnants/Asylum." There's a long, instrumental intro, and, just when you're convinced that the tempo won't pick up, it does. To me, this was like the spark of inspiration. You can sit around for hours with incoherent thoughts rambling together, and, just when you're least expecting it, it all coheres, falls together in a way which seems either brilliant to you and opaque to others, brilliant to others and an incidental puzzle for you which leaves you feeling phony, or, if you happen to be really lucky and/or really talented, both.
"Never Again" is a song about the Holocaust. It tells of privation, about dehumanization, about endings, about being crushed down to dust and then rising again. Dave had a grandmother who survived Auschwitz. She got lined up several times to enter a gas chamber, but would crawl to the back of the line each time and somehow got saved. It's about surviving in the face of ultimate and indomitable odds.
"The Animal" is the depths of fear. It's about losing yourself in a Dantean forest, a place where you forfeit control and become something feral, predatory, self-harming. It's about raising your hand, your own hand, and not knowing whether it will pull you up out of the darkness or destroy you. It's about having no friends, no way of telling the difference between light and dark, no knowledge of death as anything other than the Great Sleep or relief, about being awake all night and losing the right to tomorrow.
"Crucified" hit home for me because it had the same name as a soubriquet I once used, "CruciFied." To me, it was a song of lost love, of making someone 'blind' to the obvious and, ironically, finding both the path of redemption and damnation in the infliction of this blindness. Much of it is a soft lament, but the final reverse is a hard-hitting throwback to "The Sickness," Disturbed's first CD. It tells you that you will outlive the most morbidly indelible of passions, the most morose obsessions. You die, seemingly, a part of you dies never to rise again, but you will be a revenant, resurrected, stronger for the experience.
"My Child" is a song of moral recidivism, of lapsing back into temptation, preparing to deal with the consequences of that temptation, and, ultimately, forgiveness. It teaches you what it's like to have something just long enough to miss it. It's about phantom pains.
"Serpentine" says that you can make the same mistakes twice, but that's okay, it's part of being human. Like "The Infection," it's about a failed relationship. Recidivism is human, Dave says, and any sort of 'relationship,' whether it be personal, professional, or spiritual, will always be a risk. It's about moving on, getting thrown on your ass again, and putting the struggle into perspective. It's about patterns, about learning from them and finding meaning from them.
"Sacrifice" is, again, about duality, about a dichotomy between control, whether feigned or real, and loss of it. It's about vacillations between humanity and not, between love and apathy (which is the real opposite of love, not hate), between learning how to take control of yourself vs. not. It's about knowing that some things will always be part of your potential, will have to be fought and subdued at every turn.
"Innocence" is, as Dave said, about lawyers and the clients which they choose to defend. It was about how both parties can be corrupt to the hilt, etc. This meant something for me because the man who I lost my 'romantic interest' to in 2010 was a 63 year old lawyer and multi-millionaire about as corrupt as they come. It was like being a kid again, with my father towering over me, only in 2010 the mountain was really a molehill and made of money. "Innocence" means that you can define and kill your gods if you have the prerequisite tools to do it. It's a song about singling out the problem, condemning it, choosing a line in the sand, and moving forward.
"ISHWILF" is a remix of a U2 song, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." It was like a revival of childhood optimism, the perennial tomorrow. It was like finding a berth in the storm, closure, a redemption. Fight back, you're a real boy.
I can't wait for the "Device" debut CD in April, which David is frontlining. Hell of a year for IM. Disturbed kept my soul in storage for me. Thanks guys.